Sunday, June 30, 2024

Caught in a Trap

As I was saying during the last time I spoke about Danny Jansen, it's a great time to be a mediocre catcher without a lot of contracted time remaining.

It's been made clear that the Phillies, Guardians, Diamondbacks, and possibly the Rays, Mariners and Pirates, will be looking for catching help this deadline. The big names on the board are Elias Diaz and Danny Jansen, though I'm not sure if Logan O'Hoppe is out of the question. And because those are the biggest names, and there's still a lot of teams that need catching help, a lot of more...workable options are involved in talks as well. 

One that I'm still confused about is Shea Langeliers, who is falling into the Mike Zunino track of being a good player by the metric of statistics that may not entirely matter. Right now he's hitting .205 with a pace that could leave him with a 150-strikeout season, he's got negative figures in the batting and fielding WAR fields, and he's got an OPS of .698. And yet he's gotten 41 RBIs, 14 home runs and a 1.4 WAR. So technically he is a good player, just on account of his power numbers, but I don't think he's a catching upgrade, nor is he especially a very versatile player. But people apparently are looking at him. I mean...maybe it's circumstantial, maybe he needs the right environment to blossom, but...I dunno, guys. Daniel Vogelbach looked like an upgrade in 2022 as well.

Meanwhile, Jacob Stallings, after refusing to hit for two seasons in Miami, has finally figured things out again in Colorado. Yes, some of it may be in accordance with the ballpark, but this is his best hitting season yet. He's hitting .279 with 19 RBIs and 4 homers as the primary backup [turned starter since Diaz is hurt]. There's the issue of his defensive numbers receding a bit, but for the first time in a while Jacob Stallings actually has presence rather than being a replacement option. Unlike Langeliers, one has to wonder how much of this hot year is circumstantial, and if he'll be able to retain a lot of this energy if he is dealt to another market. I think what sets Stallings apart from somebody like Austin Hedges is there's more versatility to him than simply just 'man behind plate'. He'd be a great backup option somewhere that needs backstop variance, and is still good in high tension defensive situations.

Both of these teams will be alright if these two go. The Rockies have been using Hunter Goodman as backup catcher, which, while not his primary position, could be a way of keeping him in the lineup. Down the line they have Drew Romo, who's looking MLB ready, and may be called up in the next month. The A's have Kyle McCann as the immediate option, Carlos Perez as a replacement option, Yozel Pozo as a potential call-up, and hopefully one of those works. If none of them get's good to have the options, I suppose. 

Maybe 2025 will have a deeper trade pool at this position. You never know.

Coming Tomorrow- He hit homers against both my teams this year, yet I can't completely dislike the guy.

Finding a New Enemy


Undeniably, going up against one of the best pitchers in baseball and hitting a comebacker that threatens to end his season, then continuing to get hits throughout the night, is a true heel move. That is the kind of thing a wrestler cooks up to make his comeuppance sweeter when the hero needs to win the belt. 

Alec Burleson has been added to the canon of unassuming MLB players who have pissed me off by opposing my teams' pursuit of unopposed success. Right there next to David Freese, Cody Ross, Kevin Youkilis, Jose Bautista, Carlos Pena, Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and Martin Maldonado. Burleson may be a decent enough human being, and he might be off to a pretty nice start with the Cardinals. But I'm never gonna forgive him for that. 

And since that June 1st game where Burleson ruined a great start by Ranger Suarez by giving all the Phils fans in attendance a heart attack, Burleson is hitting .283 with 19 RBIs and 7 home runs, some incredibly hot numbers for a guy who was kind of limping along before then. He chose that moment, the heel turn, to get extremely good at baseball, and has been one of the forces powering the Cardinals to second place, and possibly beyond, ever since. I have no choice but to loathe this man.

The Cardinals, once again, have chosen to become very good midway through the year, rather than the start. Yes, I know, I am a fan of a team that starts the year very good and decides midway through to start being terrible. But the Cardinals did not look this good at the beginning of the month. And for a team with so many guys over 35 to suddenly start clicking, and start letting the kids really take the lead, is...bizarre. Goldschmidt, Arenado, Lynn and Carpenter are all past their prime. But Masyn Winn, Alec Burleson, Brendan Donovan, Ryan Helsley and Nolan Gorman are still in their prime and doing very well. It's just weird that there's such a tug between that new breed of Cardinals player and the elder statesmen. 

This Cardinals team is over .500, and have gotten there with a lot of close victories over other middling teams. Now that they're playing teams who are getting hotter than they are, like the Braves and Reds, the wins are beginning to trail off, as they honestly good. This is a very alright Cardinals team, led by a lot of people doing the right thing at the right time. I don't know if this is a mentality that can last them to October, especially considering that their top pitcher, Sonny Gray, got lit up by, like, Austin Wynns yesterday. 

Alec Burleson may redeem himself eventually. But I will never forgive him. Even if Suarez ended up being fine, even if the Phils weren't especially shaken. I'll never forget how hopeless I felt then, and it was all him.

Coming Tonight: Another catcher that is surprisingly getting trade traction this year.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Purely for the Scouts


Well, Luis Robert hit another home run today. That puts him at 9 on the season, in 29 games. And you can be sad that the number's so low, due to injuries, but...honestly, considering that Robert is essentially playing to get out of Chicago, it doesn't really matter.

That's really how you can sum up a lot of the best players on the White Sox right now. They're playing well enough, but are really auditioning for the deadline. You have enough people, like Erick Fedde, Drew Thorpe and Korey Lee, who you can guess will be here after August, but guys like Paul deJong, Michael Kopech, Tommy Pham, and especially Garrett Crochet and Luis Robert, are clearly trying to show off to people. And that's what this recent Robert stretch has felt like, y'know, hope the scouts are digging this because it might not get the Sox anywhere. 

It's been telling how Pedro Grifol has been working with Crochet in the past few weeks. He's aware that he's had an extremely dense workload, and he's trying to ensure that he doesn't blow his arm out, like Giolito did last year, and he relaxes a little in July so that they don't get another GM mad at them. And this is honestly the first thing I've ever agreed with Grifol on. Yes, if you're dealing with a guy who's been injured for the last 2 years and is starting for the first time, and doing well, you wanna make sure he doesn't get injured again right when things are going well for you. If they were being really evil about it, they'd keep him going to ensure that he injures himself right before the deadline, but I think the White Sox are in full rebuild mode and need some more key pieces. 

So, like, if the White Sox cap Crochet at like 4 innings or less, even if he's killing it, and put in a longman like Soroka or somebody til 7, that's more efficient for all involved parties. And plus, it gives Crochet a midyear reprieve so he can slowly work back up to 100+ pitches wherever he gets dealt to. So by this metric and only this metric, Pedro Grifol knows what he's doing. Everything else? I mean...yeah.

Robert is less of an issue in terms of innings limiting, obviously he's been in great shape and is hitting really well at the moment. The Phillies and Braves have already linked in trade talks to Robert, amongst...many others I think. And yes, Robert is one of the most powerful hitters of this deadline season, and could be a great addition to any roster that goes for him. The Sox are gonna be in trouble once he goes, but, again, the hope is that they rebuild and come into the next superstars eventually.

So it'll be something just to see what Robert and Crochet look like this month, as their White Sox days probably wind down. What they can still contribute to a team that can't rebuild til they leave.

Coming Tomorrow- If Ranger Suarez had gone on the IL I'd have probably put out a hit on this guy.

The Team You Do Not Want to Lose To


As I am writing this, all it's currently taking for the Philadelphia Phillies, vastly underrepresented, to outfox the Miami Marlins is one run scored by a fielder's choice. If it were any other time of year, in any other week, I'd assume the Phils would be able to finish the job. But not after last night.

Last night, I am of the firm belief that had we been under an MLB regime that valued automated strike zones over the union of dozens of old men who are routinely wrong about shit, the Phils would have gotten the win and nobody would have gotten hurt. But because some umpire thought a Zack Wheeler strike was a little off, a runner advanced and the Marlins were able to break the game open, win, and leave Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber open to be injured. Because of some ump who thought they were right, and as it's been seen now completely wasn't, the Phillies are down their two best power hitters and lost a game that they were within inches from winning. 

There are people who will go 'oh, it's more complex than that'--it's not. If there was a robo-ump, it would have been strike three, and the Marlins don't come back. It is that simple. And there are so many games that have been decided by an umpire who was spatially misinformed. The umpiring has been shit across the board this year, as evidenced by a Yankee game I went to last week that was decided by awful umpiring in favor of the opposing team. And that is really what you get most of the time. Occasionally you get someone who's on their shit, but not very often.

I don't think the Marlins deserved to win that game. I don't think they deserved to be put in the position to get the better of Zack Wheeler, because the circumstances of them being able to score runs off him in the 7th were the result of a blown call. Alright, stay in the game, pitcher who was gearing up for this to be the last batter, let's have Otto Lopez and Ali Sanchez bloop their way over, and then let's have Josh Bell and Bryan de la Cruz come right down on Matt Strahm. 

It's clear to me that a complete freak accident is what led Jake Burger, Josh Bell and Dane Myers to suddenly show up, because they wouldn't show up otherwise. The circumstances had to be tailored to be as bad, and as ill-prepared, as possible in order for these people who never get hits to actually get something done. Otto Lopez I'm not shocked over, he's been getting a lot done as a contact bat, and he's one of the few Marlins players to actually come off as competent this year. But under normal, non-bullshit circumstances, they don't spring to life. 

The Marlins don't win because the Marlins are the better team. They win because the other team screws themselves over, or the establishment does. I reckon there's gonna be a lot of that this year.

Anyway, hopefully the Phillies can hold out and take the V here. If not, I have no idea what could have gone wrong.

Coming Tonight: Ironically, someone who's been linked to Philadelphia in trade talks.

Friday, June 28, 2024

The Old Rays Come Roaring Back


I say 'the problem with the Rays' like there's just one, but the main problem with the Rays is that their low-cost recycling method opens itself up to diminishing returns if you don't pick the right prospects to trade your stars for. Alright, you've traded for good prospects, but you need them to be stars pretty quickly. 

And so we're at this point where the current batch of returns has only really given them one perennial star in Isaac Paredes, and many more purely serviceable guys like Jose Caballero, Zack Littell and Ben Rortvedt. But the alarming part is that the base, made up of people who have stuck around and haven't been flipped yet, isn't doing especially well right now.

Just now, late June, we've finally gotten Yandy Diaz going. It took him a while. He came off to a disastrous start, but the management said 'hey, let's stick with it and give it another shot', and because the fate of democracy is not resting on the shoulders of the first baseman from the Tampa Bay Rays, this went well. Diaz is now hitting .275 with 40 RBIs and 7 homers, which is much more his speed. But the heart of this team, people like Brandon Lowe, Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe, just aren't doing it. These are the people the Rays decided to keep around, and remember how rare that is. And they're just...kinda there. Arozarena is at least power hitting but he's been awful otherwise. Brandon Lowe's been doing the same thing he does every year, bob around, miss some time and remind people of how good he looked in 2019. 

And even having both Aaron Civale and Zach Eflin around hasn't really added much to the Rays' rotation prospects. Littell has been in charge of the most work, but now his ERA's over 4. Civale's is over 5. There are no starters with a positive W/L radio. Supporters will say 'well that's cause Springs, Rasmussen and McClanahan aren't here', and...I mean, maybe, but with this Rays team even McClanahan would start going 'hey, can I have some run support please?'. It's just an imperfect formula, cause there's not enough above-average starters, and there's not enough above average hitters, and thus the team game below average.

And yes, they're still ahead of the Blue Jays, but for how much longer? Next up are the Royals, Rangers, Yankees and Guardians, there's no way they win all of those. The Jays also have a tough schedule up until the All-Star break, but they at least finish off with beatable teams like the Giants and Diamondbacks. The Rays need to hope that their mediocrity will be able to get them by for a little while longer, as it usually does.

Coming Tomorrow- A speedy shortstop for a team that should not be that much of a match for the hometown team.

It's Time for Paul Sewald's Custom


The Diamondbacks are so diluted this year that when they do utilize something incredible you still feel taken aback. Ketel Marte's probably starting an All Star Game this year, y'know, damn, good for him. Joc Pederson's flirted with .300 this year, shit, I guess he's for real this year. Paul Sewald's been damn near unhittable since coming off the IL? Sure. Why not at this point?

And that's the fascinating aspect of all this. Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are hurt, Jordan Montgomery and Brandon Pfaadt are underwhelming, Slade Cecconi can only do so much with this run support. The rotation's shot, the bullpen has a lot of bloated ERAs...yet they still have Paul Sewald, who's notched 10 saves in 16 games, and has allowed 1 run and 5 hits in that time, giving him a 0.61 ERA. You've seen Kirby Yates, Clay Holmes and Ryan Hensley's ERAs go down, you know it can happen, but Paul Sewald has just been unstoppable so far. And it really couldn't happen to a nicer guy either, he's found fans in Seattle and Arizona, everybody loves him. The twitter does a thing when he's up in the pen on a win/save situation, they just post 'It's Time for Paul Sewald to Pitch', as if it's a foregone conclusion what's about to happen. I love when closers have calling cards like that. The Nats used to have Todd Coffey, and they'd just put 'IT'S COFFEY TIME' on the tron as Coffey sprinted out there at full speed. Edwin Diaz obviously has his trumpet fanfare, making it a big deal whenever he comes onfield to inevitably disappoint the Mets.

But Sewald is the right kind of down-to-earth, likable guy for this moment in Phoenix. Cause they had a winner in Andrew Chafin last year, then they traded him for no reason, which would have been egregious had the Mariners not traded them Sewald for no reason. And Chafin was good for them, the fans loved him, but I think Sewald might be even more of a hit. There's a lot of those this year for the D-Backs. Sewald, Pederson, Tucker Barnhart, Kevin Newman. This is a very likable team, even if it's clearly not as good as last year's team.

And you could see it during the Phils series, they gave up at least 4 runs in all 3 games, and lost the last two pretty badly. Not only did Philly want revenge, but they took the steps to improve and came upon the right luck. And now, it seems like the D-Backs have run out of the luck that got them to the World Series last year. Without Gallen and Kelly, and without Moreno and Thomas honestly, they're several notches back from where they were, and considering that the Dodgers and the Padres HAVE improved, it's been a struggle to really stay relevant. They're ahead of the Giants at the moment, but who knows how long that'll last.

The D-Backs have got to be happy they have Sewald, Marte, Pederson and Walker. Because they sadly don't have much else at the moment.

Coming Tonight: Last year's AL starter for first base, finally approaching his 2023 momentum.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

On the Early Bloomer


There's a media trope that doesn't get talked about often, that of the adultified child, someone who had to grow up far too quickly to take care of adults in their lives who weren't capable of taking care of themselves. A person who had to mature far sooner than they were meant to, and did so without thinking of the far-reaching consequences. The MLB version of this is far less depressing.

I can think of a few different cases of someone in the midst of minor league development who was rushed to the major league club due to the lack of healthy options, regardless of readiness. They used to do this all the time, have big-leaguers essentially skip the minors and come right in, and that's what the Padres did with Dave Winfield back in the day. These days there are some cases where a player's so good that they speed through the minors within a year, we saw this with Paul Skenes of course. But recently we've seen people in double-A get yanked up due to necessity, regardless of the rate of progression. Nico Hoerner was the big one, he was wrangled up in 2019, took a few seasons to really come into his own and is now one of the chief Cubs hitters. 

The Angels have two of these guys. Zach Neto, who progressed through the minors so quickly that the Angels had to bring him up, and Nolan Schanuel, who was brought up literally two months after being drafted by the Angels. And if they had any other manager but Ron Washington I'd be worried.

The last few days you've been hearing a lot from Wash about his approach to these two players in particular, the two young gems of the organization. And these two are thankfully listening to him. Schanuel is still not hitting, which, while somewhat expected for a 22-year-old, is still upsetting for a starter. But Neto has been having an excellent season, and I think learning from Washington has definitely helped. So far he's notched 10 home runs, 35 RBIs and 10 stolen bases, aside from some very, very good defensive infield play. With Trout hurt, Neto is one of the most talented multi-tool guys on this team, and having versatile people like him, Luis Rengifo and Taylor Ward ahead of the curve gives the Angels more than a lot of lower-tier teams have.

I think Neto hitting his stride at 23 does give him a leg up on a lot of other people who likely won't get there til 25 or 27. And this is a year where we have a guy who's 20 that's already been told he's not MLB-ready yet, and a few other people up at 20 or 21 that are having the time to struggle. I think it's very circumstantial: Neto's learning curve was lessened a bit, and Schanuel's wasn't. Neto, however, might be the better player, though...again, it remains to be seen what peak Schanuel will look like, much like peak Jackson Holliday.

The Angels have perked up a bit recently, but are mostly waiting til Trout and Rendon get back. They just lost Patrick Sandoval for the year, are giving Zach Plesac a shot to worrying results, and are gearing up for Taylor Ward to be dealt for hopefully some future pieces. I hope Neto's around long enough to see this team gel together, much like Hoerner, but it'll take a lot of little moves.

Coming Tomorrow- To the end of my days, I'll never understand why the Mariners dealt this guy.

Candy Coated


A team with a guy stealing every base in the league, a hitter with a consecutive hitting streak, and two pitchers that no one can under .500 while the Cardinals with a median age of like 35 are over .500 in 2nd. This is hellish.

The NL Central race is great because pretty much all four lower teams are on equal footing, but the problem is that the Reds, Pirates and Cubs will start winning and then lose even more games and wind up flat on their ass again. And the only team that's actually making headway are the frigging Cardinals, a team I never want to do well because they always decide to do so midway through the year rather than actually being good the whole way like a normal team. The closest to a good team of those lower three are the Pirates, but they'll just blow games right when they're getting good, and not get much higher in the standings, despite having Paul Skenes, Bryan Reynolds and Oneil Cruz all surging.

The Reds, though, might be the single most shockingly bad team of the competitors. By all accounts, they should be good. Elly de la Cruz is having an excellent season. Hunter Greene and Andrew Abbott are all excellent. Jonathan India's on a streak to end all streaks. Jeimer Candelario's gotten hot in the last month and he's piled up 14 homers and 39 RBIs. And yet despite the insanely hot start to the month, the Reds have been stop-start ever since. Just plodding along, basically.

The main issue, as it was last year, is rotation durability. Nick Lodolo, after some outstanding stuff, is hurt again. Graham Ashcraft is back but the Pirates clobbered him. They're going with Carson Spiers for the fifth spot, and while he's better than he was last year, he's still not to the quality of Greene or Abbott. And Frankie Montas, who began the year with some strong starts, has evened out to a 5 ERA. This is where not having Brandon Williamson, or even Lodolo, feels evident. The lineup is similar, with CES, Matt McLain and ONCE AGAIN T.J. Friedl casting a shadow over this team. 

And look, clearly they're trying. The core here does work, and this team can power-hit. But with lesser Spencer Steer, sub-.200 Will Benson, and many replacement level hitters like Nick Martini and Stuart Fairchild just hanging around, you can't really take this lineup that seriously. The Pirates at least have multiple people right now who are hot and bringing the team with them. The Reds have far less of that, which is why they're in fourth.

The next two teams the Reds have to play are the Cardinals and Yankees. This won't be easy, especially with this level of momentum.

Coming Tonight: A guy who probably thought he'd spend a few years in the minors after being drafted who's now very much driving the team in the bigs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Once More With Vierling


Matt Vierling hitting a home run off of Spencer Turnbull earlier today was interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, this was Turnbull's return to Detroit since leaving in free agency and signing with Philadelphia. Turnbull was excellent with the Tigers but just could not for the life of him stay healthy.Yet with the Phils he's been durable, versatile and hasn't overexerted himself. The second reason is that these two played for each other's teams, then for the same team last year and now for their current teams.

And the most intriguing part of this is that Vierling had a big day for the Tigers, and has become a crucial member of the everyday team, yet all of the other pieces of the deal that sent him to the Tigers are either injured, free agents, or not playing well. Somehow, Vierling might be the key piece of the deal that was supposed to bring Gregory Soto's relief superiority to Philadelphia. 

The one thing is that for someone like Vierling to be a key piece of this Tigers team as it stands, this Tigers team can't be especially great. Not to diss Vierling at all, he's got 10 homers and 32 RBIs, that's not bad at all. But the Tigers have a lot of replacement level guys in big positions, people like Carson Kelly, Gio Urshela, Colt Keith and Zach McKinstry. Baez is not only hurt but he's still underperforming. Torkelson's once again back down in the minors, making TWO #1 overall picks that are currently worrying Tigers fans at the moment [Casey Mize might be cooked, guys]. Riley Greene is absolutely everything he was cracked up to be, but it's really just him right now. Kerry Carpenter's hurt, Mark Canha's down from his A's/Mets days, nobody else is on his level right now, and that's kinda upsetting.

What's kept the Tigers relevant has been the pitching, which is excellent. Yesterday Tarik Skubal silenced my Phillies, and honestly, with the season he's having, I'll allow it. Reese Olson and Jack Flaherty are equally great up there. Jason Foley and Shelby Miller are still excellent relief pieces. What's worrying is that the bullpen guys that seemed so strong earlier this season are now getting shelled, people like Tyler Holton, Andrew Chafin and Will Vest. So that's getting away from them. They're also getting clear late-career stuff from Kenta Maeda, and they don't have the courage to cut him and let Matt Manning back up there. 

The Tigers have mellowed to fourth place in the AL Central, are far enough behind the Royals and Twins to not worry them, and have lost so much of their April-era credibility. I hope it doesn't get much worse.

Coming Tomorrow- I initially thought he was a weird fit for a team whose infield seemed pretty set in 2023. Then the 1st baseman got hurt, the third baseman got suspended, and he started heating up.

Battle of the Soto Returns


Nats-Padres, which is going on now, is especially interesting this year. Because we have a battle between two teams who got a whole bunch of prospects in exchange for Juan Soto. These two had a massive deal for Soto a few years back, and now neither of them have him. And they're just sort of left here to go 'man, wasn't it nice?'.

It's very funny, because of the two teams, the Nats have more prospects in that deal that haven't developed yet. Hassell and Wood are very famously not up yet, and James Wood's gonna be legendary when he does make it up [and seeing as he's hitting .350 in Rochester and Jesse Winker may be a deadline piece, THAT MAY BE SOON]. Meanwhile, Higgy, Vazquez and King are still very much with the team, and Jhony Brito was up for a while. The only piece of the Padres deal to not be with the MLB club is Drew Thorpe, and thanks to Dylan Cease he's having a way better time in Chicago. But, again, the Padres asked for MLB-ready pieces, instead of more organizational depth guys like the Nats wanted.

But luckily the Nats also got two guys who were stuck behind people, being C.J. Abrams and MacKenzie Gore, and they're both inherited the team. Abrams is still a great asset, and a team hero, and he's already got 12 homers and 39 RBIs. Gore, while not the full ace the Padres drafted him as, is every bit the strikeout artist he was billed as. He's got 98 Ks at the moment, despite a 6-6 record and a 3.50 ERA. Gore is not the most accurate pitcher in this rotation, not by a long shot, but he's still a very tough opponent, and he's made things difficult for batters all season. Unlike Abrams, I don't know if Gore will mellow out enough to truly be a leader for this rotation, but this year proves he might be on the right track.

And it's weird, because you can play the game of like 'what if the Padres had kept Abrams and moved Ha-Seong Kim over' or 'what if the Padres had kept Gore and didn't need as many pitchers from New York', like these are two teams that are indebted to each other for their last cycle of development. And even still, you're seeing both teams come into their own despite the rebuild; the Nats with the homegrown pitchers like Irvin, Herz and Parker, and the Padres with Jackson Merrill making it look too damned easy at 21 and Matt Waldron making every other team regret not getting knuckleballers anytime in the last five years. 

Obviously the Padres get the edge, because they're more competitive and don't have Joey Gallo, but the Nats still have a lot of intriguing pieces that make them capable of taking some from SD. We'll just see how it finishes out today, I guess.

Coming Tonight: Right as he was going to get a chance to start in center-field for a defending NL champion, he got dealt. Which is nice because he's arguably getting more of a shot on his new team.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Jansen on my Own


When it became clear that the Blue Jays would potentially be sellers this season, a lot of ideas came to mind, like 'John Schneider potentially losing his job', 'Vlad Jr. being one of the top targets', 'Davis Schneider becoming even more valuable', things like that. One thing I did not predict happening? 'Danny Jansen becoming one of the most sought after trade pieces of 2024'.

I want to make it clear, Danny Jansen is not a bad player. In fact, in the post-2019 development of the Blue Jays, having a contact hitting catcher like Jansen in the org has made for some excellent organizational security. The team's gone through a ton of catching options since 2019, including Reese McGuire, Zack Collins, Gabriel Moreno and now Alejandro Kirk, and Jansen has persisted this whole time, mostly because he's durable. I think his lack of early hitting prowess made him a better backup option, but unlike a lot of other recent perennial backups [Tomas Nido, Seby Zavala, Austin Wynns], Jansen never got himself cut. He just kept on working, and even during the year of Alejandro Kirk's breakout, Jansen was just as valuable to this team as ever. 

So, yeah, Jansen is no slouch. I think he's been a backbone for these teams, and one of the most underrated catchers in baseball. But like...the way people are talking about him in the trade mill, it's sounding like Jansen is this key, killswitch piece, and like...yes, we get it, it's a weak pool for catchers, but let's not go crazy.

Obviously there's teams out there on the hunt for catchers. Phils might need one if JT's still gone in a month. Guardians could be on the hunt if Fry's being spread too thin. Maybe somebody else will swoop in for depth. And there's some solid options out there, namely the two Colorado catchers, Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings, as well as Shea Langeliers if people don't want a good defensive option, or Grandal if they wanna roll the dice. There's really not a ton of great catching options out there. And Jansen, as a decent, versatile catcher, is near the top of the list.

His season to date has already placed him there. Right now he's only hitting .230 with 16 RBIs and 5 homers, mostly as a backup to Alejandro Kirk. But the fact is that he's still pretty much in his prime, he's still a great catcher, and if the Jays still have Kirk they don't need a guy like Jansen platooning behind somebody. So if the Jays keep at this pace, I think Jansen's a fair bet to leave, despite how well he's done in Toronto.

But still, not only will the Jays still have Kirk behind the plate, but Brian Serven's still around, and he's had some success in Buffalo. So they'll be fine, even if they do start losing people. But again, that's a matter for a month from now. Until then, they've got to see if they can gain any ground on Tampa before the All-Star break.

Coming Tomorrow- Someone who was traded for Juan Soto. Y'see, that doesn't necessarily narrow it down these days..

Caught in the Act


There's a lot going around about what constitutes a failed prospect, people are saying 'oh does that mean Jackson Holliday's a bust' or 'mmm, Pete Crow Armstrong isn't doing what this specific scout said he'd do years ago', and frankly it's really unfair. These guys are still young, we don't know if it's circumstantial, or if Holliday just needs to bake for a while. Look at Gunnar Henderson, he wasn't a success immediately, but he certainly got there.

But I also wonder what Joey Bart thinks about this. Because in 2020, he was given the golden opportunity, as Buster Posey sat the season out, Tyler Heineman was the starter, and the door was wide open for the longtime Giants catching prospect to take command. And he didn't. And then the following year he was out for the season. And then the year after that he hit .215 and they had to start Curt Casali some more. Every single time Joey Bart was given the opportunity to succeed, he flat out refused to. We may never find out why. It could be circumstantial, it could be the translation from the minors to the majors, it could be nothing. But someone who looked like a surefire hero for a team that was looking to replace a legend, wasn't. 

The death nell for Bart, and the reason he's currently caught behind two catchers in Pittsburgh, was that the moment Bart proved that he wasn't the man, the man arrived. Patrick Bailey. Great catcher, can hit for contact. Goodbye Bart.

I think the reason why Bailey has worked so well for these Giants teams is because he fits with this team's strategy. This is not only a team that gets big hitters with big contracts, but lots of nuts'n bolts guys that came from nowhere and work efficiently, and Bailey's in the latter category. But that's what happens, you can have Jorge Soler and Matt Chapman getting up there, and right behind them you have a fifth string middle infielder from the Yankees organization, a former Mets utility man who can hit for power now, a guy I saw playing for Norfolk who's suddenly figured it all out, a former Twins also-ran who now only gets hits when it's dark, and the former top prospect who took years to develop but now can't stop hitting. And Bailey's right at the center of that, he's hitting .292 with 24 RBIs in 52 games. He can hit, he's a durable catcher, and the fans love him. And he doesn't feel like a consolation for not getting Bart, because Bart wasn't even that multifaceted even when the hype was upon him.

The Giants are down a bit right now, perhaps because they're without so many big pieces like Jung-Hoo Lee, LaMonte Wade, Yaz, the back half of the rotation, etc. They do have a lot that works, but there's three rotation spots that have numerous question marks on them, and it's essentially whoever's around. Spencer Howard's starting games for this team. Is it worth calling up Hayden Birdsong [UPDATE 12 HRS LATER: !!!] or Carson Whisenhunt? Do they go with Mason Black again? Do we know when Snell, Cobb or Ray will be back. This especially is killing this team, because you can see they're trying, and Logan Webb's terrific as usual. But man have injuries dulled the point.

I really hope these guys can get some people back in July. Because they honestly could compete, and they could go for a wild card spot. They just need more people who know what they're doing.

Coming Tonight: It's so weird that this guy's been seriously considered by buyers this deadline season. 

Monday, June 24, 2024

Astros Update: Alright, We Get It Edition


I have never been so intimidated by a team that's under .500 that's only taken one of six from my team.

It's not that the Astros are this overwhelmingly powerful, sure-to-be-champion team right now. It's that they keep threatening to be. They're still 2 games under .500, but they've won 5 straight and now have to play the Rockies and Mets. This is the closest they've been to .500 yet, and their ramp up towards that point came with a 3-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, one of the toughest teams in the league, and a team that made it exceedingly difficult for my Yankees to get anything done. 

Baseball is weird like that. By that metric, the Astros are better than the Orioles but not as good as the Yankees, yet the Orioles, at least as it currently stands, are better than the Yankees. It's all about how well the Astros match up against these guys, and they matched up much better against Baltimore. Maybe it's because the O's are running low on viable starting options, maybe it's because you're seeing people who were alright in Houston spring to life now, like Framber Valdez, Alex Bergman and Josh Hader, but the Astros were able to slay the dragon and subdue the Orioles. I mean, honestly I'm glad they made sure the O's were losing at the same rate the Yanks were this weekend.

The Astros have been getting nice seasons out of some people who have always felt like lower-tier players in this era. Jake Meyers has always been decent, but being in an outfield with Kyle Tucker means needing to sort of back him up a lot. With Tucker hurt, therefore, Meyers has had more time to shine. So far he's got 28 RBIs and 7 homers. He's also one of the best defenders on the team and he still has a ton of range. Even with Chas McCormick's middling work, Meyers having Mauricio Dubon and Joey Loperfido in that same unit, and hitting .300, gives the Astros a contact-heavy outfield schematic that's looking to cement itself. 

Jose Altuve, at the moment, looks to be a heavy favorite to start an All-Star game. I feel like Marcus Semien is a better summation of the current moment in the AL, but if fans think he's the best in the AL, fine. Probably a Hall of Famer, probably has 6 or 7 more years of pissing me off left in him. Justin Verlander is...oh wait he's injured again. Figures. Well they just brought up Jake Bloss, and...oh he's injured already as well. they're gonna need to figure out what to do for a fifth starter?

...that's seven injured starters. And the Rangers just got Scherzer back. That's...not as intimidating as I thought. 

I dunno, they might still outhit people, but dare I say the Mets might have something of an edge in this series? They actually have several first choices in this rotation still.

I...I know this probably means they'll sneak into the postseason somehow anyway, I just think it's nice that all these calamities get to befall them for once.

Coming Tomorrow- The man this team once thought was the answer behind the plate is now recovering from a concussion in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile his successor's doing pretty well.

Cutch Back


In a few more years there's gonna be some viral article, '10 players that looked bizarre wearing City Connect jerseys', and it's gonna be people you don't associate with 2020s baseball, people like Asdrubal Cabrera, Corey Kluber, Dee Strange-Gordon, guys like that, and I'm wondering if Andrew McCutchen will be included on that list. Because this does look cool as hell, but does he fit here? This Pirates era is the era of Paul Skenes, Oneil Cruz and Jared Jones, and...there's Cutch.

It does go into a larger conversation about Cutch as an MLB presence since signing the Phils deal. From his call-up in 2009 to the end of the 2018 season in New York, Andrew McCutchen still felt like a masterful, relevant player. And after the mid-2019 injury, he just felt like he had less to contribute. Since 2020 he has a combined 4.5 WAR, only one 25+ homer year, and a huge production drop-off. He's less of a contact hitter than he was in his 20s, is a mid-lineup bat at this point, and his Pittsburgh return, while better than before, is still nowhere near his 2010s stuff. Just yesterday, Max Scherzer held down the Royals at age 39. Cutch is 37 and he's...I mean, he's fine.

It sucks that I have to be this honest about one of my favorite players. But to be fair, this is not the first time in his career that Cutch has had to come back from a massive drop-off. In 2016 he had a dismal year, with some defensive troubles detracting from a .250 year, which included a home run hit while I was attendance at PNC Park. The following year he was able to get back some of his glory, hitting .279 with 88 RBIs and 28 home runs. He had enough appeal then to succeed as a boost for both the Giants and the Yankees the year after.

So this current Pirates era of Cutch is essentially Cutch v3.0. This is the latest revitalization attempt, and because the home crowd loves him, it's been going well. While he's done a few pegs from his excellent 2023, Cutch still has 10 homers and 22 RBIs as the primary DH. He's at the point in his career where the home runs are game highlights just by themselves, but he's still very much capable of hitting them. It's not entirely 'resting on mythology' mode, there's still a lot Cutch can do right as a hitter, even if I am thankful he's a permanent DH these days.

The Pirates have had a nice upswing recently. Skenes pitched yesterday, so that went well. Reynolds and Cruz are both hot. Colin Holderman continues to be one of the best set-up men in the biz, despite the game kinda coming down to him yesterday. With the NL Central relatively open, the Pirates could get ahead of some of the competition, and might stick around at this rate, even with some flaws still obvious.'d be wild if Andrew McCutchen's return to Pittsburgh went on long enough to see the Pirates compete again. I'd kinda adore if that happened.

Coming Tonight: Is this the next Houston product to have a breakout year? 

Sunday, June 23, 2024

While You're Here, Royce..


The good news is that through 86 games, Royce Lewis is hitting .318 with 27 home runs and 71 RBIs. The bad news is it's over three seasons.

When I talk about 'magic hat' players, the kind of players that are forces of positive energy for teams until they get injured and the magic leaves, I usually refer to somebody like Mike Trout, or Paul Blackburn, or Tommy Pham this year. Royce Lewis is the rare magic hat player that's never not been incredible in the majors, and just can't sustain the success because he keeps getting injured. Lewis has 10 homers in 16 games, and it makes you wish that he was healthy more often, because if you do the proportion work, if he'd have been there for the same amount of games as Carlos Santana, 70, he'd have hit FORTY-FOUR HOME RUNS BY NOW.

Royce Lewis, at the very least, has been an incredible hitter whenever he's been healthy. You could tell how much energy struck this Twins team the second he came back, and he's been one of the biggest stars of the team's recent come-up. And look, a lot of people on this team clicked in the last month. Carlos Santana, Jose Miranda, Byron Buxton, hell LOOK AT CORREA GO ALL OF THE SUDDEN. This team took a while to take off, and they're all pretty much here now. And having Lewis hitting a million homers and be a guaranteed guy on for this stretch of June really helps. There is the worry, though, that now that he's up he's gonna pick an inopportune moment to get hurt again. This is what he and Byron Buxton have in common: they excel when they're there, they conk out at the least helpful moment. Buxton takes it to the next level, cause he'll come back and not be 100%, and so he'll do away with all the progress he'd accumulated. 

Yeah, you're really seeing the Twins come to life all of the sudden, and all of these pieces that may not have even been working during the streak start doing impressive things. Yesterday Bailey Ober had a complete game start with a low pitch count, that turned a lot of heads. Simeon Woods Richardson's been fantastic as a full-on starter this year, he's got a 3.26 ERA in 12 starts. Jorge Alcala and Cole Sands are having awesome seasons in the pen, and Josh Staumont has been unhittable since coming away from Kansas City. Joe Ryan's truly feeling like an ace again.

This team is not only well over .500, but they just lapped the Royals! The Twins are back in second, and have caught up to one of the hottest under-the-radar teams in the league! They've caught this much momentum and are slowly coming back up to the Guardians. The AL Central is finally fully competitive again, and it's not just 'one team that's great and four sluggish ones'. Y'see what a healthy Royce Lewis can do to this division?

Coming Tomorrow- One of my all-time favorites, who's still looking like his old self in the city he came up in.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Trapped in the Drive-Thru


Evidently we have left the 'Grimace era' of 2024 Mets baseball.

Look, the Grimace thing was great because it revitalized a fanbase that had grown despondent after like 2 months. Mets fans should have hope for longer than that. But it was looking really bad for a while, and with next to no pitching, a lot of hitters not doing anything, and the culling of fan-favorite Tomas Nido [a friend of mine from college was especially devastated by this one], many Mets fans had already given up and begun the wait for the Jets to embarrass them further.

But all it took was for Grimace to throw out the first pitch at a Mets game and suddenly, the fire under this team had been lit.

There's conflicting reports as to what exactly happened, people are also saying there was a team meeting where things got really heated. There was a celebration Lindor was doing early on in the post-meeting era that involved looking at the dugout and miming repeated slaps, so people theorized that Mendoza said something like 'if you people don't start playing well, I'm going to slap all of you upside the face'. Whatever it is, people who were struggling earlier on, like Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso and Harrison Bader, started heating up and giving this lineup some definite oomph. Alonso and Nimmo both have 42 RBIs, Alonso has 16 homers, Mark Vientos has an .856 OPS and is looking like the answer at third, and Jose Iglesias is somehow batting .438 since being called up. Starling Marte's also having a great season at the plate, even if he's nowhere near as good defensively as he used to be. 

The big piece of the last few weeks of Mets upticking is J.D. Martinez, whose late 2024 development worried fans. But he's finally hit his stride, and he's hitting .287 with 31 RBIs and 9 homers in 48 games. This isn't quite peak J.D., but he's still an extremely good power hitter, and is the exact kind of consistent piece the Mets need, especially if McNeil isn't gonna cut it. Also important, Francisco Alvarez has been back, and he's been hitting .271 with 15 RBIs. Somehow the Mets are finding a working model going forward, and it involves Alvarez, Vientos, and, surprisingly, Tylor Megill and David Peterson.

And then, after a 7-game streak, the Rangers finally got tired of getting the snot beat out of them, and gave the Mets their first loss off the Grimace era. The Cubs handed them another one today. So the positive vibes may have been temporary, and it may not be a 'flick of a switch' thing that makes this team wholly amazing. But I see a lot more working on this team than I did before, and I think even in losses you're still seeing more things they'll be able to keep using moving forward. Plus, Lindor's finally feeling like a hero this year, and that always helps.

The Mets finally have something to fight for this season. Here's hoping they won't need an appearance from the Hamburglar to start winning again.

[I was gonna say 'Mayor McCheese' and then I realized Eric Adams isn't too far off...]

Coming Tomorrow- Anthony Rendon has become the go-to trope of 'guy who always gets injured and seems to want to get injured'. This guy is the opposite. 

Where There's a Wilyer..


In a season where the Braves conned them out of their ace before he pitched his best season in years, the star shortstop got injured immediately yet again, the pitching breakout of 2023 backtracked and the finally-MLB-competent 1st baseman got hurt after a month and a half, it's wild to me that the Red Sox are still 5 games over .500. You batter these guys, rip them off, throw them around, and they still come back and beat you.

It's outstanding how competent this core is now. Definitive answers have formed in all three outfield spots, catcher, shortstop and possibly 2nd base, and the makeshifts at 1st and right are still extremely competent. David Hamilton, Ceddanne Rafaela, Connor Wong and Jarren Duran are all looking like they could be sticking around a while at these positions in Boston. Wilyer Abreu might be the biggest surprise, he's turned into a really nice outfield bat, hitting .272 with 22 RBIs and 6 homers. He's been hurt for a lot of June but he should be back this week. You're also seeing viable replacement options in Enmanuel Valdez and Dominic Smith, in addition to the continued power presence of Rafael Devers. This lineup has really come together, and if a few more things get ironed out, and the injured guys are all ready next year, this lineup could compete.

Even more excitingly, the rotation combo of Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, Nick Pivetta and Brayan Bello is still really working out. Houck's having his best season to date, Crawford's building on a great 2023, Pivetta's improved after struggling last year, Bello's been shaky but still 7-4, and while Cooper Criswell was a decent fifth man, the Sox may have something else up their sleeve [what it is I'm not entirely sure looking at their Worcester options]. That elusive fifth man, which would have been Lucas Giolito or Garrett Whitlock had the injuries not struck, is keeping them from being elite but not completely holding them back from being good.

And that's really the thing with the Sox: they're flirting with being a great team. This past week they've looked ferocious against both the Yankees and Phillies, have fared extremely well against division rivals the Blue Jays and Rays, and are capable of winning big games by long margins. Only issue is that they're prone to get beaten almost as much as they beat others. They won big against the White Sox a couple weeks back, then the White Sox took two from them. The Orioles in particular have had no trouble with this team. They're still too inconsistent to really be seen as a league power, even if they've definitely come into their own.

I think the next month or so will be a good indicator of the Sox' stamina going forward. If they even out and prove they can compete, they could be a sleeper hit this fall.

Coming Tonight: It took him a little longer than the fans would have hoped, but this guy managed to find his swing eventually in a new uniform. 

Friday, June 21, 2024

Just Pretend Nothing Happened


Every so often you'll hear some guy on Twitter with no life and an American flag in his profile picture going on about how Trevor Bauer shouldn't be pitching in Mexico right now considering that he didn't do anything and that he should be on an MLB roster right now. And...while that's a really dicey issue that I feel like it's unwise to really weigh in on, it got me thinking about what our collective bar is for MLB players with controversial off-the-field antics. Just this year alone we've seen the Mets retire Darryl Strawberry's number, the resurrection of the Pete Rose Hall of Fame campaign after the Ippei Mizuhara incident, the banning of multiple MLB players, including Tucapita Marcano, Michael Kelly and local product Jay Groome, and the rehabilitation of both domestic abuser Marcell Ozuna and HGH abuser Fernando Tatis Jr. 

Tatis, for the record, is in full 'scandal? what scandal?' mode a couple years after the suspension, and is having another strong season in San Diego. He's currently hitting .280 with 14 home runs, 36 RBIs and an .822 OPS. This is the standard of hitting Padres fans expect from him, and with Machado down and Soto gone, he's fulfilling the expectation. So far he's also got a nice amount of All Star Game votes, and could be starting for the NL this year. I think that enough people have accepted that the doping Tatis did wasn't to the extent of others before him, and was an accidental breach of banned substances. Like nowhere near Manny Ramirez disavowing the rules, or people doing intentional steroid abuse or anything. This was a foresight by a young kid, so say the MLB viewing public. I still think it's slightly dubious, and would love to see some proof that he's learned his lesson, but I guess we'll all have to see together.

That's also the tactic Marcell Ozuna's using. He's hitting like hell, having his best season than years [even better than 2023], proving his worth, and Braves fans are mostly going 'well at least SOMEONE'S hitting'. It's very similar to the Nelson Cruz thing, where, yes, there's a mar on the record, but with the extent of production it's impossible for fans to completely dislike him. Yes, he probably did some bad shit at home, but Ozuna is reportedly behind that, and is also nowhere near as detestable as some other recent abuse cases [Domingo German, Aroldis Chapman, etc]. And so I think people are kinda letting him off the hook.

I think for the Padres, because they truly need a central figure like Tatis, it's harder for them to cut off any support for him. He's still in his prime, he's trying to get them back to glory, he's still fun to watch. And even people like Luis Arraez and Jackson Merrill have been bowing to him this year. Without him, there's no strong through line for the lineup. Ozuna is similar, but in that case it's mostly due to the injuries of people who would be more central.

I think Tatis is due for a nice resurgence, even if I'm not even sure he can get to the heights he was headed towards in 2019 and 2020. Hopefully he can still bring the Padres some good luck this year.

Coming Tomorrow- Surprisingly, one of the early favorites for AL Rookie of the Year.

Both Ends Burning


It's looking like the key injured pieces for the Rangers may be returning soon, as Max Scherzer is finishing his rehab assignment and is eyeing a return to the team. DeGrom might not be too far behind. And it couldn't come at a better time. Yes, the Rangers do have a full rotation, and a well-stocked one, consisting of Nate Eovaldi, Dane Dunning, Michael Lorenzen, Andrew Heaney and Jon Gray, but...considering that the depth chart going into this season foreshadowed a Scherzer-DeGrom-Eovaldi-Gray-Bradford see how that's less exciting, right?

Look, a lot of this is just the Rangers' poor luck, and this has already cost them Josh Jung, which is already pretty heartbreaking, but losing Cody Bradford after an insanely insane start to the season, not even getting Scherzer or deGrom til the season's half over, and already losing Eovaldi for some starts, just feels cruel at this point. In 2020, when they lost Corey Kluber immediately, they still had contingency options. Last year when Jake Odorizzi wasn't an option out of camp they still had Dunning, and eventually Bradford once deGrom got hurt. And they're extremely lucky they had viable starting options in this event. But...I dunno, some of this just doesn't feel as reassuring anymore.

I mean, they do have Michael Lorenzen, having fully recovered from his post-breakout shakiness last year. Lorenzen, who was honestly only a last minute addition of a signing, has been a steady, consistent option for the Rangers, which is wild in itself. He's got a 3.00 ERA in 12 starts, isn't overtaxing himself and is just being very smart with ball placement. Overthrowing got him in trouble with the Phils after the no-no, he seems to have learned his lesson and is just vexing batters rather than bowling them over. Lorenzen having a lower ERA than Eovaldi, Gray and Dunning is...surprising. 

And it's not like it's not understandable. Eovaldi throws hard, of course there's gonna be some wear and tear. Dunning's been on 6th man duty for 3 years, he's had to be on the whole time, of course he's sagging a bit. The point of this rotation was for people like Dunning and Heaney to take less important roles, not be this much in the spotlight. And the hope is that once Scherzer and deGrom come back, Dunning and Heaney can shift back into long relief roles and even out a bit. But...when they come back, are they gonna stay awhile? 

The lineup has Semien, Seager, Heim and Josh Smith surging, but Adolis Garcia has gone positively cold, Wyatt Langford's still struggling, Nathaniel Lowe's less accurate than usual, and the soon-to-return Evan Carter is looking far less confident than he did in the frigging playoffs last year. The thrill, even in June, seems to be gone. The Mariners are way ahead, the Astros are gaining, the momentum's just not there. And the hope is that it soon will be, and the returning pitchers will bring some, that too much to put upon two guys who've famously missed a lot of games the past two years? 

It's so indistinct. A complete 180 from last year. Sad to see, honestly.

Coming Tonight: Last time the votes were tallied, it was looking like he had a nice shot at starting an All Star Game. he back??

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Bear Witness


After looking impressive through their first month and a half of MLB play, the 2024 Chicago Cubs completely hit a wall. And thus, they've spent the last month or so just completely falling apart. Which honestly, even if it's a well timed skid by an overconfident club, is kinda hard to watch.

Look, even at their current state, the Cubs began this season with an amazing amount of hubris. They managed to get Craig Counsell to come over, from their chief divisional rival, and sign a contract to manage there for the foreseeable future. Forget screwing over David Ross. They got a great manager, and the fans were really impressed. Then they re-sign Cody Bellinger, get Shota Imanaga, who's still excellent, and wrangled Hector Neris over and prevented the Yankees from being stuck with him when he inevitably started tanking in the ninth again. They go into the 2024 season as overwhelming favorites, even over the Reds and Brewers, solely because they have the money to get people and the organizational depth to build off it.

And then the season starts and lol Cubs.

It's not without a conscious effort to not suck. The Cubs' pitching is very good, but saddled with terrible luck. Justin Steele has his ERA under 4, but he's still 0-3 and nowhere near his 2023 self. Kyle Hendricks will have amazing starts, as he just did, and also many terrible starts. Then, just when Ben Brown figures out how to start, he gets hurt. I'll give the Cubs credit for making Hayden Wesneski and Drew Smyly, and Luke Little, into halfway decent bullpen options.

But...the strong, varied offensive core of this Cubs team just hasn't shown up. Dansby Swanson, one of the 2023 standouts, is having a weaker year, he's only hitting .214. Nico Hoerner's only hitting .243. Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger are in the .260s, nowhere near their highs. The only Cubs hitter with an OPS over .800 is...former Dodgers prospect Michael Busch, who has somehow become the Cubs' first baseman and is surprisingly hitting really damned well. I mean, in all actuality he's hitting as well as Suzuki and Bellinger, but his accuracy and consistency has given him the edge. He's had less at-bats than his contemporaries and more success in those at-bats. It's also just fun that he's suddenly come up and become a major factor in this Cubs team. A lot like Patrick Wisdom in 2021, though...Wisdom, like other establishment Cubs, isn't doing much at all.

It's really just Busch and Ian Happ who have WARs higher than 1.0, and with Happ it's because of his defense probably. So that's a lot of people who are here, and are healthy, and just aren't hitting. Even Pete Crow-Armstrong, who was hitting initially, has cooled down and isn't doing a ton.

The Cubs are currently in fourth place, and though they've improved slightly, they need to unstick themselves from the mud and get back to what they were doing before if they have any hope of looking intimidating at all this year. 

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few starters in Texas that hasn't gotten hurt yet.

Marsh Lands


The Royals seem to have a lot figured out. This year so far has been the perfect balance of homegrown youth success [Brady Singer, Maikel Garcia, Michael Massey] and key acquisitions [Cole Ragans, Seth Lugo, Garrett Hampson], all behind Witt and Perez. And yet the funny thing is that as this rotation was set up, one of the people I didn't think much of has become something of a secret weapon for them.

Because in the Spring, you could see what this rotation was becoming, and I was going 'alright, so Brady Singer, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha are gonna be up here in the front, then Cole Ragans if he's for real, and then Kyle Wright whenever he shows up, and I guess Daniel Lynch takes the last spot. I didn't think there was much room for Alec Marsh, who started some games last year in KC. And yet, as Wright got hurt, and Lynch struggled in spring starts, Marsh moved his way up in the depth chart and wound up starting out of camp.

So far, despite a slight injury break, Alec Marsh has had some really nice moments this year. The moment that put him on my radar was holding the Yankees to 1 hit during the series we had with them. He's a nice durable arm, he goes late into games, only recently he's been getting blown up but he hasn't made a habit of it. He's a nice extra guy to have around, and even if Royals fans would prefer to get Kris Bubic back, he's a decent trade-off. He's struggled more than a lot of Royals starters, but I just see what he can do when he's really on, and I think they're gonna see a lot more of that as they go. 

That's really why the Royals have felt so strong this year, even the depth options are feeling better realized. We've already gone over the fact that Freddy Fermin, the backup catcher, could be a starter on any other team. Nick Loftin is coming into his own at 2nd while covering for Massey. Sam Long has been impressive in his first 10 games in middle relief. Dairon Blanco, the go-to pinch runner, has 14 stolen bases. Even if the outfield isn't great, Kyle Isbel's still an excellent defensive weapon, taking after Alex Gordon honestly. There's so much more to this team than there used to be, and having Bobby Witt in the midst of a prime season certainly helps that.

The real tricky part is gonna be getting past the Guardians, but I think Bobby Witt right now is better than Jose Ramirez. May be controversial, but there you go.

Coming Tonight: The Dodgers didn't have room for him, but he's certainly gotten going in Chicago. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Their Truist Selves


Something is missing in this Braves team. I don't just mean the lack of Ronald Acuna, Spencer Strider and now Michael Harris. It just feels like the central core of this team matters less than it ever has.

I think about it this way. The Braves developed this team around Acuna, with Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Sean Murphy and Marcell Ozuna forming around them, and developed these young pitchers like Max Fried, Strider, Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder to inherit the team once Charlie Morton left. And right now the people doing the most for the Braves have been the afterthought guys. Reynaldo Lopez is still the team's best pitcher, he's got a 1.69 ERA and 70 Ks. Marcell Ozuna is responsible for the most offensive production of anybody, he has 20 homers and 63 RBIs. People like Chris Sale, Jesse Chavez and Travis d'Arnaud have had major hero moments for this team. And the core is...kinda there? Doing their best? But they're not the main event, like how Judge is in New York or Harper is in Philly or Ohtani and Betts are in LA. 

Like...Albies is hitting .260 this year. Arcia's hitting .220. Riley's hitting .240, and is lucky his defense is great. Murphy's juuust heating up again after struggling with injuries. Elder's tanked this year. It's really just Max Fried who's actually been performing to his potential. Everybody else is kinda letting the reinforcements take the lead, and...that only works to a certain degree. Like yes, it's nice the Braves are getting vintage Chris Sale this year, or it's nice that Marcell Ozuna's hit enough long balls to make everybody forget about the domestic abuse charges, but this team looked so complete last year. And now they're just sorta...hoping they pull through, I guess.

I also look at their approach to the ninth inning vs. the last few years. Cause they've layered relief options on top of each other, and made sure there were enough reinforcements barring catastrophe. The 2021 run had Mark Melancon, Will Smith and eventually Chris Martin and Richard Rodriguez. And then as people left you just saw Raisel Iglesias sort of get handed the ninth. Like 'well it's either you or A.J. Minter, maybe it's best that you take it'. And he's been good as a closing man, which shouldn't be too shocking. He's got 19 saves in 29 games, he's reliable as heck. But you have to think like 'if he goes, then who takes the ninth?' Minter? Pierce Johnson maybe? It's not as layered as usual.

Look, I'm seeing this Braves team on Sunday. It's not 100% certain who they're giving the ball to. I'd guess Fried, but it was supposed to be Hurston Waldrep, the only Brave with a posher name than 'Dansby Swanson', and he got hurt. I'm still thinking it'll be a tight game but I don't know how much of a punch this team can throw without the main source of energy. But hey, maybe Marcell Ozuna will do something. 

Coming Tomorrow- Of all the people slated to start games for the Royals this year, the one I was the most unsure about. And of course he's been great.

Arm City


It's weird that, even without John Means, Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer, the Orioles still have a very intimidating rotation. And that's not because Albert Suarez just gave every Yankee fan in America a heart attack last night.

This is the kind of pitching depth the Orioles had been waiting to build for years. Once Means came up, he was supposed to be the start of something. Him not staying healthy enough to see it is another thing entirely, but without him, we don't get Kremer, Wells, Bruce Zimmermann, Grayson Rodriguez and Bradish coming in and making something count. 

And so now we're at the point where the Orioles have such an expansive homegrown pitching core that they can take on extraneous reinforcements. Hence Suarez, who nobody can really hit right now, thought the Yanks certainly got to him last night. And now Cade Povich, who came over in the Jorge Lopez deal [which has taken on a new meaning now], has been wonderful in his first two starts of the season, with his second start being a scoreless, dominant affair against the Braves. That this sort of b-team, which also includes Cole Irvin, who's also been wonderful this year, has been keeping things together in Baltimore this year is very reassuring.

Also reassuring is the quality of the top two guys, which has stayed unmoved all year. Obviously Corbin Burnes was an 'exactly what it says on the tin' type acquisition; you get Burnes, he's gonna be hard to hit. So far he's 8-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 89 Ks in 15 starts, which is pretty incredible, even by his standards. Undoubtedly he'll be making an All-Star team, and hopefully Rubenstein will ensure that it's the first of many. And then you have Grayson Rodriguez, primed for long term success this year. In 12 starts, he's been 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA and 77 strikeouts, and he's finally proving his MLB durability after years of being a top prospect. Last year was shakier, but the bones were there, and now Rodriguez is as trustworthy as they all thought he'd be.

The Orioles so far have matched up decently against the Yankees, though New York getting the edge in game 1 came down to superior offense and superior starting pitching. But that's subject to change, considering Povich and Irvin will get chances against Gerrit Cole and Luis Gil later on this week. And while the Yanks neutralized Gunnar Henderson in Game 1, with the fire that's now building between these two, who knows if he'll stay dormant this series.

Yanks-O's is fun again, after years of being lopsided, and I'm very much here for it. Just maybe cut back on the whole 'eye for an eye' thing please.

Coming Tonight: He's closed for many teams, but they've all been teams that wear red. And this is only the latest. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Flick of the Wrist


Boy, it's a bad time to be the wrist of a future hall of fame hitter.

In the last few days, two of the biggest players in the game, and two MVP candidates, just got handed very worrying injuries of almost the exact same type. Mookie Betts was the first, needing to miss 2 months with a hand injury. And then tonight, Aaron Judge gets hit on the hand with a pitch, exits, and as I write this it's not certain whether or not he'll need to miss time. Considering what amazing seasons both of these guys were having, this is the worst case scenario, honestly; losing Betts severely wounds the Dodgers, and the prospect of losing Judge puts the incredible Yankee start into jeopardy.

The Dodgers may honestly have more to lose. They already began the season extremely injury-bitten, and are still without Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Emmett Sheehan. Now they are without Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Michael Grove and Bobby Miller, in addition to Max Muncy, who recently got hurt. So already, they're on fumes as far as the pitching is concerned, and are hoping that James Paxton, Gavin Stone and Tyler Glasnow are a strong enough core for the present moment. They got Walker Buehler back, and he's been decent, if flawed. They're getting Miller back this week, he should hopefully be in better condition than earlier in the year. There's no real news on when the big three will be back, so hopefully the unit works enough in that interim.

But with one less superstar in the lineup, the flaws are going to become more evident. Miguel Vargas has been thrust back into short, and it's going about as well as it did last year. Gavin Lux, even after all the wait to get him starting again, hasn't been worth it, and neither has Chris Taylor. Andy Pages is talented but still isn't hitting that well. Heyward and Rojas are good, but they've both done better. 

One of the takeaways of this team, besides the obvious ones, is that when you need him to, Teoscar Hernandez will absolutely annihilate a baseball. He did it a bunch of times during the Yankees series, and right now he's got 17 homers and 51 RBIs. As good as he was with Seattle last year, this is a steadier, more potent Hernandez, and he's been the spoiler on a number of occasions. The Dodgers had enough strong people in well defined roles, and now they have a nice power bat to make sure it's not all on Ohtani.

This Dodgers team still has enough to get by on, and they'll likely stay ahead for a bit. But I don't know if they'll be as potent without Betts, and I'm guessing it'll be a long series of weeks while they wait for him to come back.

Coming Tomorrow- Not the starter that may have hurt Judge's wrist, but AN Orioles starter.

Trident and True


Julio Rodriguez does this thing where he takes a couple months to take off, just to give you the idea that he won't. It's happened in all of his MLB seasons to this point. Remember how his 2022 rookie year got off to a slow start only for him to go into full Julio mode and win the hearts of the MLB? Remember how last year he had a slow April but still ended up making an All-Star team and coming 4th in the MVP voting? Because he's still only 24, he's not at his full potential yet, and I have a feeling that in the next couple years, we will see him hitting .300 in April, and then all of y'all are gonna be running for cover.

Right now, Julio's doing...alright. He's hitting .268, he's got 29 RBIs and 7 homers, plus 16 steals, but you're seeing the RBIs and production begin to accelerate in the last few games. The one thing Julio is leading the league in right now is strikeouts, and yes, when I saw him in the Bronx, he certainly struck out a couple times. But again...this is around the point he kicks into high gear, and you're seeing things begin to pick up. He and Josh Rojas are tied for the highest WAR of the hitters on the Mariners, and I can already tell you that Julio's more crucial to this team's success than Rojas is. The other night he had another hero moment, and, again, you're seeing those begin to pick up. I think he's gonna catch fire this month.

It's about time someone did in this lineup, anyhow. The pitching's been much-heralded, even with Bryan Woo skipping a start, but not until recently has the hitting been anything at all. Rojas, Raleigh and Rodriguez have been improving, and now you're seeing Dominic Canzone, Luke Raley and...somehow Victor Robles all joining in on the fun. It's somewhat disheartening that Ryan Bliss and Tyler Locklear, and the since-demoted Jonatan Clase, haven't completely taken to the majors yet, given the pressure surrounding their promotions, but hopefully they get there. 

Look, the Mariners are in first because they're outpitching everybody. That is abundantly clear. Nobody's hitting Gilbert, Castillo, Kirby, Gilbert, Hancock or Woo. They're just not. And nobody's hitting Andres Munoz either. I think what's keeping them in first is the slow build of the lineup, and guys like Julio and Raleigh finally showing up and keeping this team from being an all-arm, no run support type of team [like they kinda were in May]. The Rangers can outhit these guys, that's for sure, but this series proved that they really can't get past this rotation, and that's gonna go a long way as the season rolls on.

As for Julio? He let you catch your breath. Be grateful for that.

Coming Tonight: A former Mariner ironically, wondering what exactly he's gonna do without a newly-injured star player.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Ahead by a Central-ry


There are a few deep moats between division leaders and the competition right now. Both the Mariners and Dodgers are ahead of their competition, and the Phillies famously have a lot on Atlanta. But the most crucial lead is the one the Brewers have in the NL Central. Because literally every team in this division is somewhat competitive right now, and the Brewers are the only ones over .500. 

Everybody else is just in a line, a couple games apart from each other, struggling to stay in it. The Cubs have dropped to the bottom and are trying desperately to get back up. The Pirates and Reds are juggling 3rd and 4th. And the Cardinals, simply because the competition is 'who can be the most mediocre?', are ahead. And yet, despite being wrung out by the Phils a few weeks ago, the Brewers are comfortably ahead and looking very good.

A lot of that is because, after a few slumpy years, Christian Yelich is back to being the central figure of this team. He's probably not gonna perform at the heights of his 2017-2019 run again, but he's still a great hitter with slightly less outfield perks. So far Yelich is hitting .333 with 31 RBIs and 14 steals. It is a season that's already gotten him All Star Game votes, and it's a season that's ensuring his hero status among Brewers fans. Because I think there was some worry that he'd be done being relevant after tanking in 2021. The last two seasons have been a lot better for Yelich, and he's still just as crucial to this team. It's also a lot better than the brunt of the work isn't solely on him, as William Contreras and Brice Turang are also having exceptional seasons and lifting this team further.

You're also seeing Blake Perkins and Joey Ortiz come into their own as solid role players. I think there's still too many replacement level guys in major positions [Jake Bauers, Gary Sanchez], but this lineup is still pretty versatile, and there's enough guys who can show up and deliver when you need. Rhys Hoskins...I mean, he's doing kinda what he did in Philly, one-dimensional power, but you live for the moments where he's on. I'm also thrilled that, after Devin Williams and Abner Uribe went down, Trevor Megill of all people became a solid enough ninth inning option, and already has 12 saves. 

The Brewers, as they are always, are the kind of good team that goes under the radar and you may not think about often, but is still capable of big things. Unfortunately, this hasn't resulted in especially great playoff luck for the Brewers. And the rotation is holding me back from thinking that'll change this year. Breaking up the big three, and putting the emphasis on people like Colin Rea, Bryse Wilson and Tobias Myers certainly is a choice, and it'll be interesting to see if this pays off. But for now, if Yelich, Contreras and Turang are gonna be this good, then who knows?

Coming Tomorrow- It's a decent idea for him to start showing up a bit more, y'know, to help the pitching and all. 

Fry'd and True


The Guardians are the anti-Mariners. Their starting pitching isn't the greatest and you see a lot of high ERAs out there, but even if you can get hits off them, the Guardians can get hits off of you in so many creative ways. You already have a guy hitting .386, and another guy with 62 RBIs, but what if I told you there was a superutility-catcher with a .300 average as well? 

David Fry, undeniably one of the breakout stars of this Guardians team, has been a surprise success, and one of the most heralded utility men in the game. So far Fry has played games in the outfield, at third, at first, and behind the plate, and he's above average at all of them except for first. His catching skills have been very useful, considering that the other two catching options, Bo Naylor and Austin Hedges, can't hit. But the idea is also that he can start somewhere and slide in somewhere else, meaning Naylor can keep getting reps without being hung out to dry. 

And in addition to Fry's versatility, he's hitting really well right now. He's got a .317 average with 8 homers and 30 RBIs. For a utilityman, that's pretty damned good. Wherever they put him, it ensures another great hitter alongside Ramirez, Naylor, Kwan and Gimenez, and just from those five guys you see so many different kinds of hitters. Kwan and Fry are two very different kinds of contact bats, Naylor and Ramirez are different types of power hitters, Fry and Gimenez are different types of multi-tool guys. And they all work. Yes, it'd be nice if some of the prospects started hitting, as I think Johnathan Rodriguez, Kyle Manzardo and, well, Bo Naylor, were supposed to be more potent than they are right now. But the heart of the lineup works, and Jose Ramirez [who evidently had a very nice father's day] is pulling his weight at the center of the lineup.

And even if the rotation's not as good as last year, the bullpen's been fabulous. You have all these newer guys like Tim Herrin, Cade Smith and Hunter Gaddis, who no one can hit. You have Emmanuel Clase still holding court as one of the best closers in the bigs. And you have Hentges, Sandlin and even Scott Barlow staying consistent for this team. They may be without James Karinchak, Trevor Stephan and Eli Morgan, but the bullpen's still pretty strong, and is keeping the rotation woes from killing the team.

The Guardians are not just good, they're interesting. So many fun stories coming from this team. Fry's just one of them. If they keep this up they'll be bringing a really intriguing team to the postseason, and who knows what'll happen then.

Coming Tonight: A former MVP who's made up a ton of ground since his recent down years.